‘See? There’s too much pinch on that door’ says Chris Ashworth as he points out a tiny imperfection on the coachwork of a one-of-two Duesenberg Model J which his firm Romance With Rust has been commissioned to correct. ‘True coach-built cars were built at a higher level than that.’ Like a fool I nodded in agreement, as if I had an idea of what it takes to produce 100-point bodywork, the likes of which will be on display in abundance at Pebble Beach this week. GRR dropped by this Orange, California workshop on our way to Monterey to get a glimpse of what it takes to get the cars up-to-snuff.
‘We’ve done a bunch of cars recently for Pebble Beach’ continues Chris, who developed his skills in his native Stockport before becoming one of California’s go-to men if you happen to have a multi-million dollar car which needs to stand up to the firmest scrutiny. A brief list of cars to have recently left this modest workshop to go and be either raced or judged by concours panels are an ex-Targa Florio Porsche 906, Alfa G1, Lamborghini 330, Ferrari 365GTB 2+2, and a Ferrari 330. The current list of jobs includes two Ferrari 250 GT Lussos, a Ferrari 365 GTC, and the aforementioned Duesenberg. Not bad …
‘Look at that weld there’ he says as he points to a hidden part of the 365s construction. ‘Shocking’ he continues. ‘But that’s how they were made so we won’t touch it. The 250 Lusso is much the same. It’s important to adopt the mindset of the people who built the car at the time.’ A stroll into an adjoining workshop reveals the second of the two Lussos receiving its 120th hour of polishing. Looking at the way the light bounces perfectly off the paintwork it’s hard to imagine it being any better. ‘We’re not finished with it yet either’ Chris tells us. ‘You have to be true to the car if you want to do them justice.’ Bear in mind that the same car had benefitted from many more hours of metalwork before Chris and his team turned to the paint and it’s clear that the owners are interested only in the quality of the end-result.
That the firm can pretty much choose the work it wants to take on nowadays sums up its standing having risen to the upper ranks of the restoration industry, although Mr Ashworth modestly insists: ‘we’re just happy being a little cog in the big machine.’
Find out just how big the machine is getting when GRR reports live from the first Bonhams auction later today and THAT Ferrari 250 GTO. As for the concours, we may not have heard the last of this Englishman abroad and his crew.